While few Hong Kong and Chinese sellers are planning to attend Cannes in person, they have plenty to entice buyers — not least the latest Jackie Chan vehicle.
The Hong Kong pavilion will return to the Croisette in a virtual format for the second year as pandemic restrictions remain tight in Hong Kong.
Organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the online Hong Kong pavilion has 16 participating companies including Edko Films, Emperor Motion Pictures, Entertaining Power, Golden Scene, Mandarin Motion Pictures, Media Asia, Mei Ah Entertainment and Universe Films Distribution.
While the majority of these sales and production companies will not be able to meet their international buyers in person, the programming team and the industry office of Hong Kong International Film Festival will be travelling to Cannes for the first time in three years, accompanied by five titles from the HAF Goes to Cannes programme: A Room Of His Own (from Israel), Silent Ghosts and The Sunnyside Of The Street (both Hong Kong), The Vessel’s Isle (China) and The Spark (India).
Travelling from China is not any more practical, as the country continues to pursue its zero-Covid policy despite relatively low case numbers. At time of writing, strict pandemic restrictions in Shanghai — which have kept millions of residents confined to their homes for more than a month — have yet to be eased, while mass testing was increasing in Beijing. There will be several mainland Chinese representatives on the ground from sales companies such as Asian Shadows and Parallax Films, although most of them are based in Europe and not travelling from Asia.
Cinema closures continue to be a hot topic in Hong Kong and China three years into the pandemic. During the recent five-day Labour Day holiday (April 30 to May 4), China’s box office plummeted by 82% to $45m (rmb297m) year-on-year, largely because on average only 67.6% of cinemas were in operation, according to ticketing platform Dengta.
Hong Kong cinemas finally reopened on April 21 after being shut for more than 100 days during the territory’s fifth and most deadly wave of Covid. From May 19, seating restrictions will be relaxed to 85% capacity and moviegoers will be able to eat and drink in the auditoriums again.
Hong Kong distributors, meanwhile, are regrouping their line-ups, with a wide variety of local titles ready to hit cinemas in the second half of this year, from feel-good comedies and thrillers to romance and horror films. They include Chilli Laugh Story (set for July 28), Far Far Away (August 4) and Table For Six (September 8 for the mid-autumn festival holiday), as well as As It Burns, Cyber Heist (previously called Disconnected), Just 1 Day, Social Distancing and To Be Faced among others.
Dir. Wu Lang
Following his short film of the same name selected in last year’s Cannes shorts competition, Haikou-based Chinese director Wu returns with a debut feature that reunites him with the same cast — Lee Kang-Sheng (Days) and Li Meng (A Touch Of Sin). Sharing a similar storyline, the new film follows two former lovers who rekindle their love after 10 years apart. But the pressing realities of their current lives creep in. Backers include Haikou Qinglan Visual Art Development, Shanghai Turan Movie and Joicy Studio from Hangzhou. Previously known as Spring Lies Forsaken, the project won the jury award at Shanghai International Film Festival’s project market in 2019.
Gods Are Watching
The second film by fashion designer turned film director Yesir is set in his hometown Quanzhou, a historic city where diverse faiths live in harmony. The story follows an elderly woman, played by veteran Hong Kong actress Nina Paw, whose religious beliefs begin to fall apart when the village temple that she looks after is taken over by a nun. Yesir (real name Ye Qian) is an award-winning fashion designer whose debut feature Koali & Rice, which also focused on elderly women, was screened in Moscow, Munich and China’s Pingyao film festivals.
Contact: Cao Liuying, Parallax International Sales
The Italian Recipe
Dir. Hou Zuxin
Chinese director Hou’s first feature film, which recently opened April’s Far East Film Festival in Udine, Italy, is a romantic comedy about a Chinese pop star who travels to Rome for a reality show and meets a young woman who is an aspiring chef. This is the second official Italy-China co-production, with Orisa Produzioni, Dauphine Film, Rai Cinema and Fun Age Pictures among the backers. The cast is headed by Huang Yao, who won several best new performer and best actress awards for her role in The Crossing (2018), and Liu Xun (Almost A Comedy). Hou’s credits include short documentary My Dad’s A Rocker about her father Hou Muren, a rock music pioneer.
Contact: Vicky Ding, Blossoms Entertainment
Dir. Larry Yang
This action comedy stars Jackie Chan as a washed-up stuntman who becomes a media sensation after the video of his real-life fight against debt collectors, which features his beloved stunt horse, goes viral. Liu Haocun (Cliff Walkers) and Kevin Guo (Adoring) co-star in the film, which pays tribute to Chan’s high-octane movie stunts that have set the benchmark for modern-day action comedies. Backers include Alibaba Pictures, Beijing Hairun Pictures and Zhejiang Hengdian Film. A China release is scheduled on December 31 for the coveted New Year window. Chinese director Yang’s previous works include Adoring, a light comedy about pets that grossed $100m at China’s box office, and Mountain Cry, the closing film of Busan International Film Festival in 2015.
Contact: Clarence Tang, Golden Network Asia
Rob N Roll
Dir. Albert Mak
With a stellar cast including Aaron Kwok (Project Gutenberg), Lam Ka Tung (Limbo) and Richie Jen (Trivisa), this action crime thriller follows two wannabe-robbers who find themselves in a police shootout and end up as hostages of a real ruthless robber following a series of unfortunate coincidences. Derek Yee (The Overheard series) serves as producer for this latest film by Mak, who in recent years has worked mainly as a co-director (A Lifetime Treasure) and executive director (Drug War, Blind Detective and Life Without Principle).
Contact: Grace Chan, Entertaining Power
Dir. Gilitte Leung
This suspense thriller revolves around a phone-obsessed young woman who relies completely on technology, until a sinister e-ghost she encounters on YouTube starts to intrude on her life. The cast includes Gladys Li (You Are The One), Jeana Ho (Deception Of The Novelist) and Angus Yeung (Raging Fire). Hong Kong director Leung studied fashion design and worked as a composer before turning to filmmaking. She made her feature debut in 2012 with LGBTQ+ romantic comedy Love Me Not.
Contact: Miriam Cheung, Emperor Motion Pictures
Dirs. Huang Ji, Ryuji Otsuka
The husband-and-wife team behind Egg And Stone and The Foolish Bird presents this coming-of-age drama as the last instalment of a trilogy about the hardships of young Chinese women. Stonewalling follows a 20-year-old college student who, due to an unplanned pregnancy, returns to her hometown and offers her soon-to-be-born baby as a form of repayment for her mother’s debt. Japanese co-director Otsuka also serves as producer and director of photography. Egg And Stone won Rotterdam’s Tiger award in 2012, while The Foolish Bird earned a special mention in the Berlinale’s Generation 14plus section in 2017.
Contact: Pearl Chan, Good Move Media
Dir. Herman Yau
Written by his regular screenwriter Erica Li, Hong Kong’s Yau tackles a rarely seen disciplinary force in Hong Kong — customs and excise. This action thriller features a star-laden cast: Jacky Cheung (Heaven In The Dark), Karena Lam (American Girl), Cya Liu (Limbo), Francis Ng (Drifting) and Nicholas Tse (Raging Fire), also in his first action director role. Yau’s blockbuster hits include the Shock Wave and White Storm series.
Contact: Miriam Cheung, Emperor Motion Pictures
Dir. Marc Ma
Nick Cheung (The White Storm), Ethan Juan (Monga) and Wang Talu (Our Times) lead the cast of Chinese actor Ma’s directorial debut. The action suspense thriller is set in a criminal underworld where rival gangs operate side by side, but their order is soon violated on the arrival of a mysterious man. iQiyi Pictures (Beijing) and Xiamen Hengye Pictures produce the film, which has New Order as its Chinese title.
Contact: Bryce Tsao, iQiyi